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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, February 19, 2017

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

There is something wrong with our churches today. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry said it. He was a well-known theologian, but he made it clear. Something is wrong with our churches today. Dr. Henry said, “Disillusionment over organized Christianity is soaring; one can see it in the statistics of declining church attendance...Savages are stirring the dust of a decadent civilization and already slink in the shadows of a disabled Church” (Twilight of a Great Civilization: The Drift Toward Neo-Paganism, p. 17).

Was Dr. Henry right? Yes of course he was! “Declining church attendance.” Yes, he was right. Southern Baptists now lose almost a quarter of a million members every year. “Savages slink in the shadows of a disabled church.” He was right again! The churches are indeed disabled, ruined and not able to convert young people today. Why is that true? Because the salt has lost its taste! Christ said it. “It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out” (Matthew 5:13).

The Reformation Study Bible says, “Christians are to be different from those around them” (p. 1732). But few churches produce young people who are “different.” The churches today are losing nearly 90% of their young people before they reach the age of 25 – and they “never return” (Barna). Why has this happened? It is because the churches have lost their savour!

Salt was used primarily as a preservative. The purpose of the church is to preserve. When lost people are being converted, they are preserved – they are saved. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” The churches are supposed to preserve sinners by bringing them the Gospel and making sure that they are “preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). But most churches are not doing that today. Young people are not being evangelized by our churches today. The churches have lost their saltiness, they are tasteless (NASV). They are not preserving those who are lost. The words of Christ are true of most churches today. They have lost their saltiness, they are tasteless. Therefore they are “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13). Christ spoke of the churches that have lost their saltiness when He said, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The lukewarm, Laodicean churches today will be spewed out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16).

David Murrow has written a book titled “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” He pointed out that men and the young don’t come to church because the churches have lost their saltiness. They are tasteless. Dr. Carl F. H. Henry correctly said that “Disillusionment over organized Christianity is soaring [because of] a disabled Church.”

But why are the churches “disabled”? Because they are not bringing in lost young people from the world. Because the preaching is tasteless. Because they are not preaching the Gospel of Christ. Spurgeon’s great church was called “a soul trap,” because Spurgeon preached Christ crucified, because he preached salvation by the Blood of Christ, salvation by Christ alone. We work hard to bring in the lost. We have lost people in every service. That is why I constantly preach salvation by Christ alone, through faith in Him alone. But most churches have dry as dust verse-by-verse Bible studies – not fiery sermons on Christ crucified. That is why they have lost their saltiness. That is why their services are tasteless. That is why they close their Sunday evening services! That is why “they are good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot” by men and young people. Men and young people now hate going to church. That is why the churches are dying!

Jesus said, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). By refusing to bring in the lost, our churches are dying. By refusing to preach Christ and Him crucified the churches have lost their saltiness and are “good for nothing” (Matthew 5:13). I know what’s wrong with our churches. I was taken to a Baptist church by next door neighbors when I was thirteen years old. The pastor was better than most of them today. He preached the Gospel, but it had no effect on me. His sermons did not convert me. They were Gospel sermons back in the 1950s. But they were lifeless and boring. I wanted to become a Christian, but I couldn’t figure out how to be saved. Neither could the other young people in the church. To my knowledge not one of the youth group I was in were ever converted. Not one! I myself was not saved, although I went to that church for nearly seven years. I just could not grasp the meaning of salvation. Christ was not preached in full power. It seemed that the pastor was afraid to offend the old ladies in the church – so he weakened his sermons. He kept the old ladies – but he lost all of the young people. The tragedy of our churches today is that they have lost the saltiness Christ demands. They have become “good for nothing” in the sight of God.

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).

But we work and pray in this church. We make it serious and exciting at the same time! No, not with modern music. The attraction in our church is Christ and Him crucified. John Cagan said in one of his sermons that our church is growing because I preach the Gospel of Christ in every sermon. I hadn’t thought of that until he said it. But it is true. For over fifty years my main subject has been Christ crucified. Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year, decade after decade – “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

You are a sinner by nature. You are a ruined sinner. Your heart is wrong. Your selfishness has blinded your heart. You may like the parties and the friendliness of our people – but you will not think about the fact that you have rejected Jesus Christ Himself. You are against Him in your heart – which is ruined by the original sin. The original sin nature you inherited from Adam makes you an enemy of Jesus. You are a Christ-rejecting sinner. Oh, you look so nice outwardly. But your heart is wrong. You must feel the deadness of your heart. You must feel that you do not know Jesus Christ Himself. You must come under deep conviction of the sin of your own heart. You must be born again, or you will spend eternity in the fire of Hell. You must be converted. You must be born again. You must stop fooling around. You must strive with all your might to come to Jesus. You must feel the sin of your heart and hate it! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it! When you hate your sinful heart and fall on your knees and beg for mercy, then Christ will melt your stony heart and cleanse you from sin with His Blood.

Stop trying to figure it out! You’ll never be able to figure it out! Come to Jesus by faith. Trust Him by faith. He will save you from your sin. Without Jesus your life has no meaning. Without Jesus you have no hope. Then you will be converted. Then you will be saved from the wrath of God. Then and only then you will become a real Christian.

And that takes us to the next point. Jesus said,

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “The real force of the statement is this: ‘Ye, and ye alone, are the light of the world’; the ‘ye’ is emphatic and it carries that suggestion...there are certain things implied. The first is that the world is in a state of darkness” (Sermon on the Mount, page 139). The world is in a terrible state of darkness. Jesus is saying that only a real converted Christian can show others how to escape from this horrible spiritual darkness. There is no light at all in this world. The only light is provided by real Christians and a church like this one. Jesus looked at His small group of Disciples. He said to them, “You, and you alone, are the light of the world.” He says that to ordinary people. “You and you alone are the light of the world.”

All true Christians go through times when they don’t feel like they are “lights to the world.” They feel anxious and depressed like anyone else. True Christians get sick like everyone else. True Christians become lonely, like everyone else. True Christians go through trials, feel the pain of loneliness, lose friends, have children that go wrong, and even feel that they are forsaken by God at times – and feel that God is absent and no one understands them. All of those who saved our church building during the Olivas church split have felt great pain and sorrow. Often we felt like we could not go on. We dragged ourselves to prayer meetings when we felt that God would not hear our prayers. We dragged ourselves to church services when we didn’t feel like it. We sat alone, with no one to comfort us. There have been times when we hid ourselves from others and cried and wept because we felt that God had abandoned us. Our friends deserted us. Our children forsook the church. Those closest to us left our church to go back to a life of sin. We have felt like Job who said, “My days...are spent without hope” (Job 7:6). Those closest to us said, “Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). We did not feel that we could go on. But somehow we did go on.

They put drugs in his food. He could no longer pray. He could not remember the Lord’s Prayer. He could only say “Jesus, I love you!” before he blacked out. They put him in a cell, thirty feet below the ground. Rats chewed on his feet. Months and years went by without hearing a human voice. He was permanently damaged in body and mind. They tortured him. They plunged red hot pokers into his back. They beat him on the bottoms of his feet until he could hardly walk. His name was Richard Wurmbrand. He was the greatest Christian I have ever met. Somehow Richard went on. How I loved him! He was tortured for Christ and spent 14 years in a Communist prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ. When they first arrested him he was a handsome young man. When he was finally released from prison he was an old man. His teeth were broken. His hair was white. He looked more like a skeleton than a man. He had to sit in a chair when he preached in our church. He could not stand up to speak because his feet were too badly damaged from the beatings. His wife had been arrested too. They made her work like a slave. Both Richard and his wife thought the other one was dead. Yet they smiled and laughed when they came to our church. You can see a photograph of them holding our two boys in their arms. You can see that photo on the wall as you go into the fellowship hall upstairs. When I am very depressed and lonely I read Richard Wurmbrand’s book, “Tortured for Christ.” It’s a horrible book, but it cheers my heart. It makes me think, “If Richard Wurmbrand could go through all that and come out smiling, maybe I can make it too.”

Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

The Apostle Paul went through horrible times too. Read the list of the horrors he went through. It’s in II Corinthians 11:23-30. On top of all that Paul had a terrible disease, a “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed earnestly for God to remove it but God did not remove it. Instead, Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:9, 10).

Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand were a light to the world. The Apostle Paul was a light to the world. And you can be a light to the world too. Christ does not offer you an easy life. Those who take the easy road in life never become “the light of the world.” It is only those who suffer for Christ that become lights in the darkness of this evil world. It is by suffering for Christ that you are made “the light of the world.” There is no other way. We now have a website that reaches a million and a half people each year. Sermon videos and manuscripts go out in 34 languages. We have a world-wide ministry as lights to the world.

I urge you to come to Christ. Trust Christ and He will save you from your sin. He died on the Cross as your substitute, to pay the penalty for your sin. He shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. Jesus is now risen. He is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven, in another dimension. Trust Jesus and He will save you from sin. I dare not say that He will give you a carefree life in this world. But I may say boldly that Jesus will make you and mold you into an overcoming Christian like Paul, like Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. Come and trust Jesus as they did and Jesus will make you a light to this dark world. Stand and sing number 7 on your song sheet,

Must I be carried to the skies
   On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
   And sailed through bloody seas?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
   Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
   Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).